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Blind Tamales

4 hr  
Blind tamales (tamales with no filling) are served with dishes like Mole Poblano de Guajolote which include a strong sauce. Generally three per serving is plenty. Once made, they can be kept refrigerated up to a week and reheated in a pan, on a griddle or in the oven. They can be frozen for longer storage and put directly from the freezer into a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.

Corn Husks (1)
Masa (2)
Lard (3)
Chicken Broth
Baking Powder

How much filling you can use depends on the dimensions of each corn husk. Completed tamales will probably weigh between 1-1/8 ounces and 1-7/8 ounces. You should get about 36 tamales with a coarse masa, over 40 if it's quite fine (it absorbs more broth).
  1. Start the CORN HUSKS soaking in hot water. They need to soak for several hours before use. Drain them well and wipe off any free water with a towel before filling. Keep in mind these dry very quickly so keep them moist.
  2. All dough ingredients must be at a cool room temperature because the lard must not melt during beating. If necessary refrigerate to cool and then continue beating.
  3. Measure out 1 pound of MASA and mix in the Salt.
  4. Beat Lard in a mixer for about 5 minutes to incorporate air, then start adding Masa and Chicken Broth alternately. If your Masa is fine you'll need more broth than listed in the recipe. The dough should be soft and spoonable but not runny or crumbly.
  5. When all masa and broth are in, continue beating for another 3 minutes or so. Test by setting a small piece of dough on the surface of a bowl of water. If it sinks, continue beating until it floats. If it just won't float see Note-4.
  6. Beat in the Baking Powder.
  7. Tear a few of your longest husks lengthwise into tie strips.
  8. Fill, wrap and tie:
    1. Lay out a Corn Husk and wipe off any free water. Place a lump of Dough about 3/4 inch thick, leaving about 1-1/2 inches at the wide end and 3 inches at the pointy end.
    2. Wrap lengthwise as shown taking care that the wide end isn't too wide.
    3. Fold down the pointy end and crease the fold with thumb and forefinger so it stays put
    4. With thumb and forefinger held crosswise squeeze the filling down from the wide end and fold it over the tip of the pointy end. Make sure the wide end completely covers the opening at the pointy end because it has to act as a roof to prevent water from dripping in.
    5. Hold the wide end down as shown and with your other hand wrap a strand of husk around it, then use both hands to tie.
  9. Arrange in a steamer. Place tamales vertically with the wide end flap at the top to prevent entry of water. They should be firmly packed but not jammed as they will expand somewhat. Cover with spare corn husks set like roof shingles to keep water from dripping back into the tamales.
  10. Fill the bottom of the steamer with water and toss in a quarter. This coin will tell you if there's a problem (it'll stop rattling or rattle too fiercely).
  11. Bring the water to a boil, then place the top part of the steamer with the tamales in it on the bottom. Keep the water bubbling well but not boiling fiercely. Listen to the coin, it should rattle for a second or so followed by a second of silence, then rattle again. If it rattles continuously the heat is too high or you are nearly out of water. If it stops rattling the heat is too low or you are out of water - neither condition should be allowed.
  12. Start more water simmering to renew the steamer water when needed.
  13. Steam for about 2-3/4 hours, then test. Pull a tamale and place it on the counter for a couple minutes to steam off and drop a few degrees. The dough should then be firm and the husk should peel off cleanly. If that passes, cut one in half and inspect the center.
  1. Corn Husks   Those sold in most of North America are trimmed and ready to go. A 6 oz package will have enough for this recipe. Use a couple of the longest for tie strips, use the shortest to pad the steamer, and as many as needed for stuffing. If you use husks fresh from the cob cut off the cupped end so they'll lie flat.
  2. Masa   This is flour of corn that has been treated with lye to remove the skins. Corn meal is not an acceptable substitute. A course masa is good for tamales but if all you can get is fine that will do but it'll use a lot more broth. Fresh Masa is often available from markets serving a Mexican community - look in the refrigerated (not frozen) cases. If you have that, just beat together with the lard.
  3. Lard:   No, nothing else will work - but it isn't nearly as bad as the deadly trans fats they told you were healthier, and you survived those (we hope). Even by AHA measures, lard has a better health profile than butter. For best quality, render your own lard. For details see our Lard page.
  4. Beating:   Dough that doesn't float will result in a stiff heavy tamale. If your dough just won't float, refrigerate until well chilled and then beat some more. Note: with my monster KitchenAid mixer, the wire whisk did not produce a floating dough even with extended beating. The regular paddle had it floating right away because the thicker shape pulled air down into the dough efficiently.
  5. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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